With a collective wealth valued at about $20 billion, the British Royal Family has great influence over the country’s economy. And with influence comes responsibility, for one, toward the environmental sustainability of their assets and activities.
Carbon Emissions and Energy Consumption of the Royal Family
Calculating the carbon footprint of the Royal Family looks easy at first. Since the family takes its funds from the taxpayers, they are obligated to publish a report every year. Among other things, this data includes carbon emissions, some energy consumption, and travel that was paid for with tax money.
This is how we learned that the highest private polluters in the Royal Family are King Charles and Queen Camilla. But that was before Prince Charles became King. We can assume that, like the Queen before them, the new position will change the behavior of the new monarchs.
While this is the best available data, it doesn’t answer our question. We can’t calculate the Royals’ energy consumption based on the number of private flights and the size of their energy bills.
While highly polluting, their influence pales in comparison to the size of the Royal Family’s operations.
The Sustainability Initiatives of the Royal Family
Many sustainability initiatives carry the name of the Royal Family. Those initiatives aren’t entirely surprising to those familiar with the legacy of King Charles. Sometimes called the Green King, Charles has been talking about climate change since the 1970s, and his interest has only increased since then.
This might be what inspired Prince William to create the Earthshot award. The initiative aims to “identify evidence-based solutions to the biggest environmental problems the planet faces,” as seen on the Royal Foundation’s official website.
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But, as the website says, it’s also an opportunity to channel the pessimistic attitude on climate change into positive action.
The recent winners of the Earthshot initiative include GRST, makers of an alternative to traditional lithium batteries. Lithium is a necessary resource for the clean energy transition.
Other winning projects focus on ending illegal fishing, improving food preservation without chemicals, and more effective use of carbon credits.
Making the Royal Business Sustainable
The Royal Family’s business has been called “a very formalized influencer business.” More pragmatically, it’s often considered one of the UK’s biggest tourist attractions. It’s not surprising, then, that most of the Royals’ business comes from tourism.
Decarbonizing tourism isn’t easy, especially when it comes to international travel. But the Royal Family is in a uniquely privileged position to do so. They own and operate a massive business made of some of the most important tourist sites in the world, but their role doesn’t end there.
The British Monarchy is a fundamental part of the English state. Their power doesn’t stay in the realm of business but is inextricably tied to policymakers. To concentrate on their carbon footprint is to miss the forest for the trees.
Sometimes, it seems like the only thing the Royal Family is doing about climate change is talking about it. That might be true, if a bit understated. But it might just be the best thing they can do.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Aerial view of Buckingham Palace during Queen Elizabeth II’s official 90th birthday celebrations in 2016. Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.